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July 7, 2021

Treating Survivors, Transforming Lives

(Note to Readers: one of the difficulties in writing about real people is, information can be extraordinarily sensitive, as you’ll see in the story below, The person I interviewed for this story agreed that the information was accurate, but requested that, in order to protect her client’s privacy that I not use either her name or the agency’s name. She even requested a different that I not reveal what county this happened in. I of course agreed because I’m in business to help solve problems, not create them. I agreed to her request with a certain sadness, however, because I would have loved for her and her agency to get some public recognition for the great work they do.)

The more we know about human trafficking, the more aware we become of the extraordinary suffering it causes. However, this means that doing anything either to stop it or to help its victims is an amazing opportunity to make the world a better place.

To see this principle in action read about Roger (not his real name), a 12-year-old boy who recently came to a clinic in New Jersey that treats survivors of human trafficking. See if the transformation that’s come about in his life hasn’t made an unfathomable improvement for him and contributed to making the world a better place.

Alice Andrews (again, not a real name) has as a medical specialty caring for children who’ve been traumatized by sex trafficking. In the case of Roger, she needed all her training and experience.

By the way, his story is horrifying, but it’s worth knowing. The sheer evilness of it is a measure of how important it is to combat trafficking.

To continue with the story, Roger’s mother was someone who could cause you nightmares. To pay for her drug addiction, the mom would regularly sell her son. She’d take him out in the middle of the night to the main street in a New Jersey town, and there she’d sell the little boy for sex.

If that wasn’t nightmarish enough, his mother several times–six times in fact–tried to kill him. And then, for the ultimate in trauma, when Roger was 12, the drug dealers porcupined his mother.

We don’t know what she had done that made them want to do this, but they murdered her. And then they left her body on a public street with 100 syringes sticking in all over her body. Roger knew this happened to his mother.

Andrews thinks it’s likely that by leaving the mom’s body like this, the murderers were making some kind of a statement. However, we don’t know exactly what because the murderers were never caught.

Andrews became involved in Roger’s case because of truancy. “The presenting issue,” Andrews remembers, “was he was afraid to leave the house. He refused to go to school. My job was to help him overcome his terror of leaving his house and to work with his school to modify his school plan so he could adjust to starting school after an 18 month’s absence.”

Andrews quickly learned that Roger’s problem went a lot deeper than truancy. He had suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety.

To give an example of the anxiety Roger was dealing with, Andrews says, “When he was finally able to attend school, a simple thing like walking to school could trigger acute terror.”

She goes on to explain, “Something as seemingly harmless as a dumpster lid clanging shut would make him feel as if someone were shooting a gun and there were bullets flying. He was sure he was going to be killed.”

Andrews supported Roger by walking to school with him, talking him through his fears. She also persuaded the school officials to accommodate him with shorter classes.

Another part of Roger’s problem was that even though he was 12, on an emotional level, he was functioning as a nine-year-old. “Trauma can do this,” explains Andrews. She continuously made herself available to him on site to support and encourage him when he needed it.

Today, Roger is in a vastly better place. He’s now able to attend school by himself, he’s growing emotionally, and something that’s really helping him, he’s found something he enjoys and is good at: computers.

Because he’s good with computers, he’s getting to experience competency, and this means–something that’s new for him­–a growing sense of self-esteem. He’s still likely to need years of additional support, but even after such a horrific start to his life, he’s on the road to a life that approaches normalcy.

Andrews and her agency have helped many youngsters like Roger. Efforts like these decrease misery and increase happiness. Efforts like these make the world a profoundly better place.